Last Updated 04 Nov 2022

How the Egyptians Mummified Bodies and Preserved Them in Pyramids

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Long ago, many Egyptians in Egypt, believed in an afterlife. They believed that there was another fantasy world where the Egyptians lived or was their home after they died. The Egyptians made the dead bodies mummies, and put them into Pyramids. A pyramid is a monumental structure with a square or triangular base and sloping sides that meet in a point at the top, especially one built of stone as a royal tomb in ancient Egypt. The largest pyramid in the world is the “Great Pyramid of Giza.” Long ago, in Ancient Egypt, Egyptians mummified their bodies and kept them inside pyramids. But creating a mummy isn’t just taking a dead body and wrapping it around with a white cloth. Making a mummy takes a lot of skill and hard work. Creating a mummy has many steps in to make it a mummy. This is called mummification.

Mummification is a process in which the skin and flesh of a corpse can be preserved. The process can occur either naturally, or it can be intentional. If it occurs naturally, it is the result of cold (as can be found in a glacier), acid (as can be found in a bog) or dryness. There are 6 steps of mummification. The first step is to pull out the brain from the nose. Second is that after the person’s death, the priests take out all the internal organs except the heart because, in egyptian mythology it is said that the heart is used to check the person’s deeds. Next the body would covered in Natron and left in the dessert for about 40 days.

Then finally, the body would be given makeup to make the body look more alive and then wrapped around. The person’s relatives would give them valuable things in their tomb for the person to use in the afterlife. Around 2005, scientists were very surprised by the coincidence of how a copper coin could solve a mystery that they weren’t able to solve in decades. It was around 2005 and János Balázs was examining remains from an earlier archaeological dig of a cemetery conducted at Nyárlőrinc, a village in southern Hungary. The excavations had yielded more than 500 graves that mostly dated from between the 12th and 16th centuries. But none of those burials was anything like the mummified green hand Dr. Balázs and his colleague, Zoltán Bölkei, had uncovered in that forgotten box. There were a variety of bones buried and they were so small they could have been confused with a rat’s. Several, including some vertebrae, a hip bone and the leg bones were stained green.

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The problem was that the scientists were trying to find whose body was that and if that was natural mummification or not. If the scientists were able to find whose body that was, they could see by the DNA reports and learn if that person was important or not. They could also learn other things about the past. Eventually, the scientists figured out whose body that was. It was a baby’s body that mummified naturally. But according to the place they found it, there was not a sign of how the body could be naturally mummified. Dr. Bereczki, one of his colleagues, started to see the actual story unfold. The team concluded that before the child was placed in the pot and buried, someone put the copper coin into its hand.

Many cultures in antiquity have buried their dead with coins as a way to pay a mythical ferryman to take their souls into the afterlife. In this case, the copper’s antimicrobial properties protected the child’s hand from decay. Along with the conditions inside the vessel, it helped mummify the baby’s grasp. The team thinks this child’s burial may be one of the first reported cases in the scientific literature of copper-driven mummification. The child was actually in a crouched position, that allowed the copper coin to stain other parts of the skeleton too. The team also found evidence of two more burials of premature babies. One had green bones, and the team found its coin and pot, but the other did not. Though the copper coin solved one mystery, though it presented another. The specific copper coin, or “Kreuzer” or “krajcár,” that was found with the baby was in circulation between 1858 and 1862. That meant the burial did not occur during Medieval times. Traditionally, Christians from this later time period have not been known to bury loved ones holding coins.

There’s more than one way to mummify a corpse. Ancient Egyptians practiced perhaps the most well-known method: extracting organs, embalming the body and wrapping the remains in linens. But nature can make mummies too. Such spontaneously preserved bodies can be of tremendous scientific importance, like “Ötzi the Iceman,” whose frozen remains were found in the Italian Alps or the Chinchorro cadavers that were buried in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile and safeguarded by the arid sand. These mummifications are made possible by environmental conditions that prevented human remains from naturally decaying. Bodies left in hot, arid environments can typically mummify in about two weeks, while the process typically takes a couple of months in enclosed locations. Remains in mild environments take about three months. The environment can speed up the desiccation process, often through extreme temperatures.

Sometimes the soil surrounding the body plays a big part as well either through osmosis or because heavy metals in the dirt can impede the enzymes. Even clothes can help mummification, according to Dr. Piombino- Mascali, because they can act as a wick that absorbs bodily fluids from the skin. In addition to protecting the remains from the body’s process of decomposing, the environmental conditions also have to defend against external threats like bacteria, fungi and animals in order to ensure that a mummy will last. But if all of these conditions come together just right, scientists might one day uncover the mummy and learn valuable information about the era in which it lived.

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